21st Century Living
According to the 2017 Alzheimer’s Association Facts and Figures research, there are more than 15 million Americans providing unpaid care for people with Alzheimer’s or other dementias. Some have assembled a team of family and friends so the responsibilities are evenly spread out, but that is not always the case. The solo caregiver manages—or tries to manage—everything on his own.
That’s where those who are on the outside looking in can become a caregiver’s hero.
OFFER TANGIBLE ASSISTANCE. We will never be wrong in assuming the caregiver needs help so rather than saying, “Call me if you need anything” we can ask, “What exactly do you need?” If we remember what we needed when we were on the mend from illness or surgery we should be able to come up with an endless list of concrete gifts of assistance.
MEALS. You need to cook for yourself and/or your household anyway so make a double recipe, pack that extra portion in a disposable dish, freeze it, and keep doing that for a week and deliver one full week’s worth of frozen meals to the caregiver who, receiving your food offerings, can look forward to not having to be creative in the kitchen at the end of the caregiving day. Engage others to sign up for this dinner on wheels program so the responsibilities are spread out amongst many.
ERRANDS. You’re running to the store for a few items; take the time to ask Sam if there’s anything he might need while you’re out. He may need a half-gallon of milk—and he might have needed it for the past several days—but embarking on that task proved impossible for him. With very little effort on your part you can make a huge difference in Sam’s well-being. Maybe the needed item is toilet paper; acquiring that for him makes you a genuine hero!
CHORES. The last task a time-strapped caregiver considers doing is housework or yardwork. You will not insult your friend or neighbor by offering to vacuum their house or clean their bathrooms. Or perhaps it’s a lawn that needs mowing or a flower bed, weeding; that sprucing up will provide the caregiver with a virtual—and literal—fresh view of their circumstances.
OTHER OPTIONS. Sam may turn down home improvement offers but he might say, “What I could really use right now is some help figuring out Nancy’s health insurance statements.” Or he might say, “My wife’s not much of a conversationalist anymore, I’d give anything to have an hour to talk with someone who is. Could you stop by later today for a visit? I’ll even talk politics if it means having someone else to talk to.”
WHAT I KNOW FOR SURE. The family caregiver has so much going on physically and emotionally, offers of assistance can be the salve that gets them through each day.
Grief: Your caregiving friend is grieving the loss of a person who is still with him. Unlike the sudden death of a family member, the Alzheimer’s caregiver suffers the prolonged loss of their loved one—oftentimes called ambiguous loss—because although physically present, the person with dementia is continuously leaving their loved one.
Exhaustion. Physical, emotional, and spiritual exhaustion sneak up on the solo caregiver and they are killers. The solo caregiver must put their needs above those of the one for whom they are providing care and sometimes they need you, the outsider, to help them prioritize those needs. Just like the airlines’ seatbelt instructions, the person meeting the need requires attention before the one requiring it.
BOTTOM LINE. You have so much to offer the time-strapped family caregiver; your gifts of kindness are more valuable than you could ever imagine.
Do you want additional insight into what caregivers with whom you are acquainted are facing? You can order Requiem for the status quo at Barnes & Noble and Amazon as well as all online and brick and mortar chain and independent bookstores. And if you have already read my debut novel, please consider leaving a review on the online retailer’s website of your choice.
Silent Storm: What We Remember, What We Forget, What We Discover A Novelist Meditates on Writing about Alzheimer’s By Marita Golden I didn’t choose. I was called. That’s how inspiration, art, and creativity work sometimes. I am often asked why I wrote a novel about Alzheimer’s disease. I am not caring for anyone afflicted with […]
A company hires a new CEO with the intent of shaking things up and repairing a culture the board feels has gotten too lax. On his first day, the CEO walks into the break room to find all of his employees in there, slacking off, telling jokes, and eating pizza. Ready to make a big first impression, the CEO storms up to the closest person.
“You!” the CEO shouts in his face, aggressively. “How much do you make in a week?”
“Me?” the man says, confused. “$500.”
The CEO pulls out his wallet and removes five $100 bills and shoves them at the man.
“Here,” he says. “Take a week’s pay and get out of here. I never want to see you again.”
The man shrugs, takes the money, and exits. The CEO turns to the remaining employees.
“Okay,” he says. “Now who wants to tell me who that sorry excuse for a worker was?”
One of the employees steps forward.
“He delivered the pizzas,” she says.
An employee goes to see his supervisor in the front office.
“Boss,” he says, “we’re doing some heavy house-cleaning at home tomorrow, and my wife needs me to help with the attic and the garage, moving and hauling stuff.”
“We’re short-handed,” the boss replies. “I can’t give you the day off.”
“Thanks, boss,” says the employee “I knew I could count on you!”
- Bionic hip
- Loss of independence
- Healthcare TLC
I received a new right hip this past Monday afternoon which rendered me fully dependent on the staff of a local hospital, Evergreen Health Medical Center in Kirkland, Washington. As a two-night inpatient at the hospital, I was reliant on staff for absolutely all of my needs.
If you can imagine everything you do during the course of a day requiring at least one medical person to provide intimate assistance, you can easily imagine all the tasks incumbent upon the nurses, certified nursing assistants(CNA), physical therapy personnel, food delivery staff, and even someone such as Barbara the housekeeper, at your beck and call.
My personality is such that I’d much rather be giving than receiving. Each time I pushed the nurse call button I carefully considered whether such a request was warranted: bladder full to rupturing, yeah, warranted; refill of my patient water carafe? Maybe I could wait and encumber the next person who walks into my room.
From the time I checked in for surgery at 11:30 Monday morning until I was discharged at 2:30 Wednesday afternoon, each person with whom I came in contact was fully dedicated to serving my needs. They noticed if my blankets were pushed asunder in my bed and straightened them comfortably around my body. When shuffling with my walker to the bathroom while wearing my backless hospital-issued gown they discreetly covered me up and made sure my dignity was kept intact.
Then there was the aforementioned employee who after knocking on my door said, “It’s just me, Barbara the housekeeper.” Upon granting the 60-something-year-old admission to my room, she said, “I want to be sure your room is clean and acceptable. You don’t need to do a thing, just lay there – and you (my husband) sit comfortably in the folding chair and I’ll work around you.”
I engage absolutely everyone I come across in conversation so it was quite natural for me to converse with Barbara the housekeeper. I asked her how long she had been working at Evergreen and it had been quite some time. “You must have seen lots of changes over the years.”
“Yeah, of course I have, but it’s good. I like what I do. I like all the people I get to meet over the course of a day.”
“I’m sure you’ve met those who, because of their circumstances, weren’t exactly the most friendly people you’ve encountered in your life.”
“Aw, sure, but you get that everywhere, not just in a place like this.”
True, so very true. As I’ve mentioned in past blog posts, each of us has a choice of whether to make or break someone’s day. I can tell you that there was not one employee at the hospital who broke my day, rather, each person made my stay there as palatable as it could possibly be. Mind you, the dings of call lights going off all day and all night from the nurses’ station directly across from my room weren’t the highlight of my stay, but those dings are far easier to accept when you realize that you initiated your share of call dings yourself and benefited from the responses of the dedicated medical personnel who had to answer such pleadings.
All in all, I’d have to say that if you have to go through the pain of getting a new and improved hip in order to lead a more comfortable life going forward, being treated with kindness during the process certainly renders the recovery far more appetizing. This former patient has no complaints whatsoever. She was treated like a queen.
If you’re reading these Monday funnies on October 9th, you’re having fun while I’m in an operating room getting a bionic hip. Therefore, some medical humor. And I’ll see all of you on the other side!!!
- I love being a nurse, but most of all I just like being able to wear scrubs all the time – they’re the closest thing to pajamas.
- My healthcare plan is pretty simple: I’m covered as long as I stay healthy.
- Let’s take this week to thank nurses for all the crap they have to do. Seriously, everyone, they deserve the best seat in Heaven.
- My doctor is an ear, nose, and throat specialist. I hope that doesn’t mean he didn’t finish the rest of med school.
- The worst time to have a heart attack is during a game of Charades.
- If you trust Google more than you trust your doctor, maybe it’s time to change doctors.
- Phlebotomist: I’m here to draw some blood. Patient: But I just received blood yesterday.Phlebotomist: You didn’t think you’d get to keep it, did you?
I know, these weren’t extraordinarily funny but I’m pretty sure you’d rather not change places with me.
Am I right?
My husband and I are very fortunate to live in a neighborhood where those neighbors in close proximity to our house watch out for each other, support each other, and care when things seem a bit too quiet at one of those closely proximate houses.
When my novel, Requiem for the status quo, was released this past summer, I let these neighbors know of future author events just in case they were interested in attending. Thus far four of our neighbors – that’s more than half of those closely nearby – have attended my events.
The first event was the most stressful one of course because although I was given the gift of gab early on in life, gabbing about a book in which much time and emotion had been devoted was something else entirely. I hadn’t slept well the night before; my stomach was all topsy-turvy; and quite frankly, I just wanted to get the darn event over with. Fast forward a couple months.
Two of my neighbors, Eva and her husband, Ian, attended that event. The other night, they gifted me with a carefully, creatively, crafted photo book documenting the evening. Ian offered that his wife, Eva, was truly the authoress of the bound photo book that so exquisitely and intimately provided a photo diary of my debut event.
I’m certain you all have experienced times in your life when positive happenings were in short supply? That’s where I found myself earlier this week until Eva and Ian walked across the street and infused my day/week/month with glad tidings and generous wishes.
That, my friends, is a kindness that will last forever.
- The first day of dieting is always the best. You’re supposed to rid your house of all bad foods…what a delicious way to start a diet.
- You know how it is when you feel like you’ve been dieting for months and realize it’s only been since 9 that morning?
- Not only did I fall off the diet wagon, I dragged it into the woods, set it on fire, and used the insurance money to buy Twinkies.
- Professional tip: if you sprinkle coconut oil into your kale, it makes it a lot easier to scrape it into the trash.
- How’s the diet going? Not good, I had eggs for breakfast. Scrambled? No, Cadbury.
- You know how it is when you decide to have a cheat meal and all of a sudden it’s three years later?
- I want to be a caterpillar: eat a lot, sleep for awhile, wake up beautiful.
- I choked on a carrot this afternoon and all I could think was, “I bet a donut wouldn’t have done this to me.”